[from History of IoM, 1900]




§ 1. Condition of the People.

IN our account of the social conditions of the period ending with the Revestment, we showed that the Manx labourers, while almost entirely restrained from leaving the island, were practically, though not legally, free to make their own bargains for wages, if they were not " yarded."

Work and wages

A few years after the commencement of the period with which we are now dealing—viz., in 1777—yarding and all regulations and restrictions of labour were finally done away with.1 But yet, between 1765 and 1793, the condition of the labourers seems to have become worse rather than better. The temporary collapse of agriculture and trade just after 1765 2 led to the departure of above a thousand of the people—for want of employment, 3 and, again, in 1791, " numbers of every description were forced to migrate to other countries, and the Island seemed fast descending into that very miserable state of containing a few great Landowners 4 and . . . their miserable dependents." 5

Men’s wages between 1765 and 1793 varied from 6d. to 8d. a day, without keep, and they got from £8 to £5 a year, with keep, while women got from 30s. to 50s. Carpenters received from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 6d. per day, and masons from 1s. 6d. to1s. 9d.6

Wages increase after 1793

After 1793, the large number of troops and other visitors in the island stimulated the demand for agricultural produce, and, consequently, for agricultural labour. Wages therefore rose, being at the end of the century from 8d. to 1s. per day for labourers, without keep, 7 or £6 6s. a year, with keep. Boys got £2 2s. a year, and women 6d. a day and 8d. in harvest. 8 But, as prices had risen somewhat more in proportion, the labourers were not as well off as before. By 1812, there was a still further increase in the nominal rates of wages, though, Owing to the depreciation of the currency, the real improvement was less than the figures would seem to show. 8 "Job" labourers got, in the towns, from 1s. 8d. to 3s. per day, and, in the country, 1s. 4d. to 2s.9 Farm men-servants received from £12 to £20 a year, with keep, and women-servants from £5 to £8. The regular weekly wages were, near the towns, 9s. in the winter, and 12s. in the summer; away from the towns they were 8s. in the winter, and 9s. in the summer. The labour paid for at these rates, however, seems to have been inefficient, since the farmers found it to their advantage to hire experienced Scottish labourers " at double wages." 10 Masons, carpenters, and quarriers, at this time, got from 2s. to 3s. 6d. a day. 11

And continue to do so till 1816 when they begin to fall

By 1816, wages had already begun to decline, being then from £12 to £14 for men, and from £4 to £7 for women, 12 while day labourers got about 1s. per week less than the wages quoted above. This was due partly to the depression in farming, and partly to the large number of Manx soldiers and sailors who had been discharged in 1815 and were competing for labour. By 1824, they had fallen further to from £10 to £12 for men, from £3 to £5 for women, and from 5s. to 8s. a week for day labourers.13 But, fortunately, some of the labourers possessed a cow or two, besides pigs and poultry, and they had allotments on which they raised " a great part of the food for their families." 14 On the whole, then, it is doubtful whether, even during the period 1793-1816, not-withstanding their higher wages, 15 and the fact that the nominal increase of prices was in part fallacious, Manx labourers were better off than before ; and, between 1816, when wages fell, and 1825, it is certain that their position, in consequence mainly of the high price of bread,16 was much worse.

Conditions of the labourers is at its worst between 1816 and 1825.

The distress, especially in the towns, was very great, and it became a heavy tax on the resources of the charitable, 17 since there was no poor law, or organized system of poor relief. Great numbers of poor people wandered over the island begging,18 and crime, especially sheep-stealing,19 enormously increased.20 At last, in 1825, some alleviation of this state of things was again obtained from large emigration, and also from the constant increase in the number of stranger residents and summer visitors,21 which caused the rapid extension of Douglas, and, to a less extent, of the other towns. In 1830, day labourers only got about 1s. a day, without keep, and farm labourers by the year, with keep, from £10 to £12. 22 In 1840, day labourers got from 1s. to 1s. 4d. a day, without keep, and 8d. with it, farm labourers getting from £12 to £14, and farm servant girls, £4. In the same year, joiners, masons, tailors, and shoe-makers got 2s. 6d. per day, without keep, or 1s. 6d. with it. These wages, considering the lower range of prices, put the labourers in a somewhat better position than between 1816 and 1825. In 1846, however, their position again declined owing to the failure of the potato crop. On account of this, in January, 1847, an application was made by the Keys to the Treasury to obtain a grant from the surplus revenue to give employment to labourers and relieve distress.

Distress in 1847

A reply was received to the effect that, before such a grant could be made, there must be a thorough enquiry into the condition of the people and the amount of food available for their support. The outcome of this enquiry was a decision that the destitution in the country was not so great as to warrant an application for a grant. Thus it is clear that the Manx were much better off than the Irish at this period. Nevertheless, in Man, as in Ireland, this scarcity of food resulted in increased emigration.

Further emigration from 1847 to 1851

Between 1847 and 1851 such large numbers of Manxmen went to America and Australia, attracted by the gold discoveries in California in 1848 and in Australia in 1850, that the population in the country districts, especially in the north, rapidly decreased. In consequence of this a considerable rise of wages followed, day labourers, in 1866, getting from 2s to 2s. 6d., and, by the year, £25 to £30,23 while mechanics received about 4s. a day.

Various causes of the improvement in the labourers' position since 1825.

Emigration, the increased demand for agricultural labour, and the advent of the visitors had thus been the chief causes which operated to bring about an increase in the rate of wages. But there were other causes at work which had a share in improving the position, not only of the labouring class, but of Manxmen generally Chief amongst these were the repeal of the Corn Laws and the destruction of the old Commercial system by Sir Robert Peel The increase of the duties on spirits, the decrease of the duties on tea, after 1853, and the passage of the Taverns Act in 1857,24 whereby the facilities for drinking were somewhat restricted, had also some effect, because Manxmen, who were also greatly influenced by the temperance movement, drank less spirits and more tea. The good results of this were soon apparent.

It was much better in 1866 than in 1796

There can, then, be but little doubt that the condition of the able-bodied Manx labourer was much better in 1866 than in 1765, though, at the same time, the difficulties in supporting the aged and infirm poor had become even greater than before.

Machinery for poor relief inadequate

The machinery for this purpose continued during the whole of this period to be in the hands of the Church ; but, by 1814, its efforts were found, in Douglas at least, inadequate to cope with the large amount of destitution and misery that then existed. In that year, therefore, a Society was formed to solicit funds for bettering the position of the poor, and an institution 25 was established in Sand Street,26 Douglas, where twenty-five people were wholly supported, and, in addition to this, a number of others received partial relief. 27

The House of Industry

This good work failed, about 1820, from want of support, but it was renewed and carried on on a permanent basis by the establishment, in 1837, of the present House of Industry, which was founded by a donation of £500 out of the funds belonging to the minister and wardens of St. Matthew’s Church, as trustees, for the poor of the town, and was vested in twenty-four trustees, who were also a committee of management ; twelve of these trustees being the ministers and wardens of the Douglas churches, and twelve being elected from the subscribers to the funds of the institution.28 A still more decided departure was the establishment of a dispensary in Douglas, in 1839, and of a hospital in the same town, in 1850.


As regards prices, we find the following figures :— In 1765, a cow could be bought at from £2 10s. to £4. A calf cost 4s. and a sheep the same price. Tea varied from 3s. to 7s. 6d. per lb. A bottle of rum cost 1s. In 1791, there is the evidence of Governor Shaw to the effect that " since 1776 the necessaries of life have more than doubled in price, some of them trebled," 29 and, between 1793 and 1815, they rose still further. Thus, in 1793, beef and mutton cost from 2½d. to 4d. per lb. ; in 1812, they were from 5d. to 7d.; in 1815, 7d.; and, in 1824, they had fallen from 4½d. to 5d. Eggs, which in 1793 were 2d. a dozen, reached an extreme price of 20 for 1s. in 1815, falling to 42 for 1s. in 1824. Milk rose from 1d. a quart to 3d., and butter from 2d. per lb. to 14d., falling, in 1824, to 9d. Prices of oats and barley 30 varied very much as in England, though they were usually lower. 31 Fowls and ducks rose from 6d. to 2s. a couple. 32 Brandy and Hollands cost 11s. 6d., and rum from 6s. to 8s. 6d. a gallon ; tea from 4s. to 6s., and refined sugar from 9d. to 1s. per lb.; while salt was 3s. per hundredweight. This comparative lowness of prices was evidently one of the chief attractions of the island to strangers.33 In 1824, the rent of a ten or twelve roomed house in Douglas was from £30 to £40, and board and lodging in the best style was 21s. a week.34

Causes affecting the prices of wheat and bread.

The prices of the commodities we have mentioned were, for the most part, affected by natural causes, but those of wheat and bread were, between 1775 and 1822, interfered with by artificial regulations.

The policy of the landowners.

At first these took the form of embargoes on the export of Manx wheat, which tended to reduce its price in favour of the consumers, but, for some years after 1798, the land-owning interest, which was all-powerful in the Legislature, succeeded in putting a stop to them, except in 1808, when an embargo on provisions was imposed for some months. This was acquiesced in by the people till 1812, when, there having been a poor harvest, an attempt to export wheat led to a riot in Douglas. The mob proceeded to unload a vessel containing wheat, but, before they could complete their work, the soldiers from the garrison at Castletown arrived and arrested the ring-leaders. The governor then promptly put on an embargo, which, however, was removed by the Duke of Atholl, who arrived in the island in December, and exports of wheat went on as before. Between 1814 and 1816, there was a series of bad harvests, so that a considerable quantity of foreign corn was imported, and, in the latter year, the governor again imposed an embargo on Manx wheat. This so alarmed the Manx landowners that they petitioned the English Government to place the island under the operation of the English Act of 1815, whereby the importation of foreign corn for home consumption was prohibited, when the price was below 80s., and of colonial corn, when below 67s. per quarter.35 No notice was taken of this petition, but, in 1819, in response to a further and more urgent appeal, Lord Sidmouth ordered the governor to stop the importation of wheat. The governor obeyed, but protested, and, after some correspondence with the Board of Trade, importation was again permitted. The Keys, however, were determined to keep up the price of corn, and so, in February, 1821, they presented a petition to the governor, in which they denounced the free importation of foreign grain as " a practice which manifestly tends to the ruin of the agricultural interests of the island." 36 This petition was forwarded by the governor to London, and, in the following July, the Isle of Man was, by an Act of Parliament, placed in the same position as the United Kingdom with respect to the importation of corn.37 That is to say, when the English ports were closed against the importation of foreign corn, meal, or flour, for home consumption, the Manx ports were also closed.

The consequent riot in October 1821.

Thereupon the price of flour and bread rose rapidly, 38 and a riot took place at Peel on Monday, the 1st of October, when the people broke the windows of the flour-dealers and compelled them to sell flour at the rate of seven pounds for a shilling. On the 2nd, one of the deemsters went there to enquire into the circumstances of the riot, and its ringleader, who had created a disturbance in court, was locked up by the deemster in person, because he could not find a constable to act. The populace then stormed the gaol and rescued the prisoner, but the yeomanry cavalry, the only local force which could be depended on, seized him with a few others and placed them in Castle Rushen. On the 4th of October, another riot took place in Douglas headed by a man from Peel in woman’s costume, but he and another of the ringleaders were promptly arrested by a small force of half-pay officers and incarcerated in Castle Rushen. The riot, however, continued, so that, the next day, a number of special constables were enrolled, " and a formidable force was kept at the Free School in Atholl Street under arms," 39 whereby the people were overawed. On the 4th and 5th, the House of Keys met and decided to"examine a jury of 6 men, concerning the quantity of grain and potatoes in each parish, and to lay an embargo on the exportation of oats, barley, and their meals, and of foreign wheat and potatoes and flour made from foreign wheat," 40 and, on the 4th, the governor issued a proclamation that the embargo on exporting corn should be renewed till the 26th of November. Prices of grain then speedily came down, and the people, knowing that a considerable quantity of foreign wheat was stored in the island, 41 were temporarily quietened. On the 14th of October, a detachment of the 29th regiment was landed to assist the special constables in keeping order.

The action of the Duke of Atholl.

On the 31st, the duke arrived, after six years’ absence, and found that, though the riots had been suppressed, the people were still dissatisfied and uneasy. On the 26th of November, he summoned a Tynwald Court, and, in addressing it, remarked that the cause of the late riots was "the rise in the price of grain owing to the speculations of persons on the other side of the water, founded on the expectation of a bad harvest." 42 He succeeded in persuading the Court, while not renewing the embargo on exports, to petition the Crown to restore the free trade in foreign grain. This removal of the embargo caused some further disturbances, especially in the northern district, and the duke who had received a warning that the troops must shortly be withdrawn, thereupon swore in an additional number of special constables, both in Douglas and Ramsey.43 At the same time he took the opportunity of addressing the people and informing them that he had pardoned all those connected with the late riots, except two, whom he had reserved " from their general bad characters as proper subjects for public example." 44 He also assured the people that, as long as he had a loaf, they should not want their daily bread. These measures and promises, together with the arrival of some more foreign grain (the assent of the Crown to its free importation having been obtained), soon restored tranquillity.

Courses of prices between 1830 and 1866.

Between 1830 and 1866, prices of such commodities as beef, mutton, poultry, and butter rose 45 but this increase was partly counterbalanced by the fall in the price of bread, groceries, and clothing, especially after 1844, when the "licence system" came to an end.46 The price of oatmeal, milk, and potatoes 47 did not vary much, so that the purchasing power of the Manx peasants had undoubtedly increased.48


At the end of the eighteenth century, the houses of the people were described as " miserable huts," 49 built of turf and thatched, the walls being seldom above seven feet high. 50 By 1812, there was some improvement. Most of the cottages were then said to be built of unhewn stone, though the " meaner" ones were still constructed of sods, and usually contained " two rooms on the ground, sometimes with, sometimes without, a solitary window. 51 We are told that the smoke from a peat fire, which was intended to issue at a hole at one corner of the roof left for that purpose, did actually, for the most part, take possession of the room, and emerge from it by the doorway. In 1816, the " mud-walled cabin and thatched roof " were " giving place to erections of brick or stone with slated tops." 52 After 1840, the houses of the poorer class still further improved. This was mainly due to the fact that, since the land was gradually falling into fewer hands, many proprietors were men of sufficient means to enable them to erect better cottages on their estates. Much, however, still remained to be done in this direction.

The Towns

Let us now refer to the small but rapidly increasing towns, where the people were probably in a somewhat better position.53 In 1776, there was an attempt to improve the condition of the towns by the passage of a law ordering that the pavements 54 of the streets should be made by the proprietors of the adjoining houses, that the streets should be kept clean by the inhabitants, and that pigs were not to be at large. 55


Douglas, about which there is much more information than about the other towns, was said to be " very populous " 56 in 1791, although a century earlier it had been " little more than a group of clay built cottages." 56 In 1810, the streets were described as " very irregular, and, in some places extremely narrow," 57 and the houses were " low and ill-constructed, crowded together without regard to convenience and uniformity." 58 In the same year, however, two new streets, Duke Street and Sand Street,59 which were the first streets to be paved, were begun, and, by 1816, a large number of new and better houses had been built.60 In 1818, the stone bridge over the harbour was built, and, between 1820 and 1829, many houses were erected in the suburbs.61 It was not till 1829 that the streets were lighted, and then only by a few oil lamps. Douglas is described at this time as consisting of " a most extraordinary lot of narrow lanes . . . Duke Street being the main thoroughfare, where were the principal shops ; though even there some of the gentry had residences." 62 The streets, or lanes, were paved with stones from the shore, and half lit with oil lamps, while they were drained by " open gutters," and " the whole place was full of dirt and bad smells." 62 Another observer confirmed this account of the streets, but remarked that the houses were "respectable " and the shops "spacious and strong, and worthy of any English country town." 63 An Act passed in 1836, obliging a company, which was then formed, to supply public lamps with gas, was not taken advantage of till 1860.64 By the Justices Act of 1836 65 bye-laws could be made by the high-bailiff, or two justices, subject to the approval of the Tynwald Court, for the regulation of towns, but nothing was done to carry this out. It seems, indeed, to have been a time of absolute apathy and inertness in municipal affairs. The entire control of Douglas was in the hands of the high-bailiff. The injustice and hardship of this system was constantly complained of; and yet, when the townspeople held a meeting in 1844, at which they passed a motion praying the Legislature to pass a law for lighting, watching, paving, and cleaning 66 the town, they rejected a proposal in favour of the election of a town council. The Legislature did not do anything to fulfil the request of the meeting till 1852, when, having received an urgent petition about " the absence of a suitable system for lighting the streets," 67 it passed an Act by which fifty or more householders might require the high-bailiff to ascertain whether the inhabitants desired its provisions to be put in force. If so, they might elect commissioners, 68 of whom the high-bailiff was to be chairman, to carry it out. The property in the towns was to be valued, and the rates were not to exceed 2s. in the pound.69 This Act was permissive, and no advantage was taken of it, there being strenuous opposition in Douglas to its being made compulsory. It was not till 1860 that a compulsory Act was passed, and that was for Douglas only.70 By it the high-bailiff’s powers as to the streets, &c., were transferred to the commissioners, and the townsmen were exempted from highroad labour, though, in lieu of it, they had to pay three shillings for each house. Soon after the promulgation of this Act, Town Commissioners, nine in number, were duly elected, and they at once proceeded to make extensive reforms. 71 In 1864, they obtained the right of making bye-laws, which had to be confirmed by the Tynwald Court 72


We now come to Ramsey, which, at the end of the eighteenth century, was referred to as a " small neat town," 73 but irregular, 74 and, in 1829, its streets were stated to be narrow, and its houses " neat and cleanly from the presence of whitewash." 75 It obtained a water Act in 1859,76 a gas Act in 1857, 77 and was incorporated with seven commissioners having similar powers to those in Douglas, in 1861. 78


The streets of Castletown were referred to, in 1865, as being " regular and airy." 79 Its water and gas Acts are dated 1857. 80


Peel, which is spoken of, in 1760, as a small town, full of people, with an indifferent harbour, 81 obtained a water Act in 1860, and a gas Act in 1857.82 There is, indeed, singularly little information about the smaller towns, but it may be said of them generally that their condition was very similar to that of Douglas, and that, like it, they slowly improved.


Another cause which retarded the progress of the towns was the utter inadequacy of their police. We have seen that, before the Revestment, order was maintained in them by the garrison soldiers, under their captains, who were also the chief civil officers. But, subsequent to this event, their places were taken by an absurdly small number of constables,83 under the control, after 1777, of the high-bailiffs. These men were usually old and feeble, and, being wretchedly paid,84 spent most of their time in going on errands for those who paid them for so doing.85 Moreover, they were only employed in the daytime, so that at night there was no check upon disorders of all kinds. In 1830, Douglas was supplied with five constables instead of four. But this meagre increase did not satisfy its inhabitants, and so impressed were they with the urgent need for more constables that they subscribed voluntarily to secure some addition to the force until the Police Bill, then before the Legislature, should be passed.86 It was, however, thrown out by the Keys, and, in 1851, no change having been made, we again find the Douglas people complaining that the inadequacy of the police encouraged " immorality and crime," and rendered " life and property insecure." 87 At last, in 1853. there was an attempt to improve the status of the police by giving the head constables, of whom there was then appointed one in each town, 88 £40 a year each, and the others, £30, " subject to their attendance at all times when required," 89 which made them liable to night duty. It is, however, manifest that but little could be done by twenty constables for the whole island, and so, in 1860, the inhabitants of Douglas complained of the inadequacy of this force in a memorial to the Home Secretary, in which they stated that assaults in the streets at night were very numerous. This appeal produced no effect till 1863, when twelve men were added to the force being followed by twenty-one more in 1864, five of whom were rural constables. Their pay was increased, and a chief inspector, a military officer,90 was appointed.


It will have been gathered from what has been said of the towns that sanitary precautions 91 were almost entirely neglected. As late as 1833, the Douglas householders stated that there was " a great want of proper sewerage and cleanliness." 92 The first important sanitary measure was the Douglas Waterworks Act, in 1834, authorizing a company to collect water and distribute it in the town by pipes.93 Hitherto Douglas, like the other insular towns, had been supplied with water either from wells or by carts which came from the country. It was not till 1851, when it passed the Nuisances Act, that the Manx Legislature in any way recognized an obligation to deal directly with sanitary questions. Under this Act, if any epidemics broke out, an order could be issued by the governor and two members of the Council to cause precautions to be taken against its spreading, such order to remain in force till the Tynwald Court met. In respect to nuisances, however, the Act was rendered futile by the provision that they could not be enquired into by the inspector until a " notice in writing from two or more householders had been received." 94 This Act, of course, applied to the country generally. With regard to Douglas, the part of the Act of 1860, which related to sanitary matters, was equally ineffective, since there were many nuisances which the commissioners could not deal with under it. They could not, for instance, compel householders to enable them to undertake drainage or sewerage adequately. Many of the houses, therefore, were in a most insanitary condition, and the commissioners applied to the Legislature to give them increased powers to enable them to deal with it. The Bill prepared for this purpose, though thrown out by the Keys in February, 1864, was shortly afterwards re-introduced and passed. 95 A scheme for main sewers 96 promptly followed, and, in 1865, an Act was passed which ordained that common lodging-houses should be inspected, and that, unless a licence was granted, no lodgers could be received.97 In the country the state of things was more primitive still. Cattle and human beings often occupied the same house, and, even when this was not the case, the cow-house and stable were frequently on a higher level than the dwelling-house, and, consequently, drained into it, while the manure heap was close by. No wonder, then, that the general health left much to be desired.98

Smallpox, cholera and typhoid fever.

The population was still literally decimated from time to time by small-pox, especially in the eighteenth century, and there were two terrible outbreaks of cholera, and one of typhus. 99 In 1864, 1865, and 1866, there was a serious epidemic of typhoid fever, which the authorities endeavoured to check by the formation of Boards of Health through-out the island. But this and the other measures adopted were, owing to the general ignorance of the most elementary sanitary laws, almost wholly in-effective, and this period closes with a dismal health record, it being estimated, in the absence of precise figures, that the general death rate exceeded twenty-four per thousand,100 while, in the towns, it reached a much higher percentage.

Notwithstanding the heavy death rate,100 population increased very rapidly, though irregularly, during this period, it having been about 20,000 101 in 1765, and about 52,000 in 1866.

The average annual increases were as follows:

Between 1757 and 1784, 218 ; 1784 and 1792, 386; 1792 and 1821, 420 ; 1821 and 1831, 67 ; 1831 and 1841, 623 ; 1841 and 1851, 440 ; 1851 and 1861, 8. Between 1821 and 1831, when the expansion was small, and between 1851 and 1861, when the population was practically stationary, are the periods when the greatest amount of emigration took place.

Its more rapid growth in the towns.

A noticeable feature is the proportionately more rapid growth of the population in the towns, especially Douglas, than in the country, that of the former having been 4,416 in 1757, and 20,623 in 1861 ; and that of the latter 14,728 in 1757, and 31,846 in 1861. The country population reached its maximum in 1851, when it was 34,933. Since then it has been shrinking rapidly, especially in the northern district. 102

Foreign Debtors

Between 1736 and 1814, the increase in the population of Douglas, and, to a smaller extent, of the other towns, was partly due to the number of foreign debtors 103 who settled in the island But, in 1814, the Manx Legislature passed a law by which any people of this class who took up their abode in the island during and after that year might be prosecuted for the liabilities they had incurred elsewhere and so they gradually ceased to resort to it.

Half-pay officers

This was, at first, a great loss to the island generally and to Douglas in particular, but about 1820 the population began to be increased by the immigration of numerous half-pay officers, who were attracted by the comparative lowness of prices and freedom from taxation The influx of these strangers gave an important impetus to the prosperity of the country. 103 Summer visitors also began to come to such an extent that, in 1820, an insular newspaper stated that the money received from the "Visitors " more than equalled the returns of an ordinary fishery." 104 This is, however, certainly an exaggeration, and it was not till after the establishment of regular communication by steamers that visitors arrived in any great numbers.105 It was calculated that from 20,000 to 30,000 of them came every year between 1830 and 1850. 106 In 1852, there was a sudden increase, and, from that date to 1866, there were probably from 50,000 to 60,000 visitors annually. But for the fact that they were obliged to land in boats at Douglas when the tide was low, their numbers would doubtless have been greater.

The lunatics

Except for a few scattered notices in the Church Registers, there is no mention of lunatics in the island till towards the end of this period. But then, through the medium of the Press, we learn that there were poor creatures who were either tied to stakes in outhouses or stables, being fed on garbage and clad in rags, or who wandered about absolutely uncared for.

Are terribly neglected.

It is true that, after 1849, 105 the criminal lunatics were housed in cells at Castle Rushen, and that other lunatics, not criminal, were supposed to be sent there, but careful enquiry has disclosed the fact that, between 1849 and 1864, their numbers hardly ever exceeded 12, though it is known that there were at least 90 existing under the conditions we have just referred to. Such a shameful state of things brought discredit both on the English Government, through its responsible adviser, the governor, and on the insular Legislature. At last, in 1851, in response to a letter to the governor from the Home Secretary, who offered to pay the whole of the cost of the maintenance of the criminal lunatics and half the cost of an asylum if the island would pay the other half, a public meeting was held to consider the question, when it was decided that this offer should be accepted and that the island’s share should be raised by voluntary subscriptions. A sum of £1,500 was thus obtained, but was nearly all lost by the failure of Holmes’ Bank in 1853. In 1856, a legacy of £4,000 was left for this purpose by Mr. Breed, but, since there seemed to be no prospect of raising the remainder of the required amount by appeals to private benevolence, a memorial was, in 1858, sent to the Home Secretary from the Tynwald Court, asking him to provide temporary accommodation for the lunatics, while steps were taken to build a permanent Asylum from the public funds.

A temparary asylum in 1864

He assented, but did nothing to fulfil his promise till 1864, when the lunatics were sent to Oatlands in Santon. 108 The Lunatic Asylum Act had already been passed in 1860. By it the Asylum was vested in the Tynwald Court, which, in 1864, appointed a managing committee, of not less than five, from its members, and a rate was provided for. 109

Permanent asylum completed in 1868.

In 1862, a site was purchased near the Strang village, about 2½ miles from Douglas ; in 1864, a plan for a building for 110 lunatics was applied for, and, in 1868, this building 110 was compÌeted and the lunatics removed to it. Since then there have been various additions to accommodate their steadily increasing number. The increase, it should be said, appears to be mainly due to the fact that persons are now admitted as patients who, even at a recent date, would have been rejected, as not being considered sufficiently imbecile.


Daily average number resident.










































There can be no doubt that the Manx, in common with their English, Scottish, and Irish neighbours, were, between 1700 and 1800, and, to a less extent, between 1800 and 1857, a very drunken people. Owing to the prevalence of smuggling, spirits were extraordinarily cheap till 1798, and, even after that date, their price 111 was very low compared to what it was in England.112 Other reasons for the large amount of drunkenness were that, till 1813, there was no increase in the cost of the licences for selling ale, wine, and spirits, which had remained at the same low figure as in 1740 ; 113 and that, till 1857, 114 there was no effort to regulate the proceedings of the licence-holders. They might, as far as is known, sell drink at any time and on any day, 115 and the limitation of their number to 300, by the Act of 1740, was disregarded.

In 1822, there were 443 116 public-houses or about one to every 90 of the population, so that the statement of an observer, who wrote about the period between 1825 and 1840, that " most Manxmen . . got drunk with great regularity " 117 need not cause any surprise.

Less drunkeness after 1830

But, fortunately, there was a growing sentiment that such a condition of things was intolerable, and this led, in October, 1830, to the establishment of a temperance society, which was the forerunner of so many others that they gradually included among their members a considerable proportion of the population. The progress in this respect would doubtless have been more rapid than it was but for the culpable neglect of the insular Legislature. The only steps taken in the early part of the century towards regulation of the liquor traffic were the enactments, in 1813, that no one should be granted a licence unless he had obtained a certificate from an high-bailiff in a town, or a coroner or a minister in a sheading, 118 and, in 1814, giving discretìon to the governor to revoke a licence. 119 A more decided advance was made in 1830, when it was ordered, in the Highway Act of that year, that recognizances must be entered into before getting a licence, and private licences for the sale of wines, spirits, and beer, in quantities of not less than one pint, were issued. 120

But no considerable change until after 1857

But it was not till 1857, when the Taverns Act was passed, that any very general improvement resulted. By this the public-houses were closed on Sundays, 121 except as against resident lodgers, and no house could be licensed unless it had reasonable accommodation for such lodgers. The amount of the fee for a licence was raised 122 and the recognizance was fixed at the substantial sum of £30. The licences were granted at the discretion of four courts representing the towns of Douglas, Ramsey, Castletown, and Peel, with the adjacent districts, which were composed of the high-bailiffs, justices of the peace, captains of the parishes, and the rectors and vicars. The appeal from this court was to the Staff of Government. 123 The effect of this Act was marvellous.

 In 1830, there were 460 public-houses ; 124 328 1842, 328 ; and, in 1862, with a larger population, 248.

But the change in the habits of the people was far temperance greater than is indicated by these figures.

The strenuous efforts of the temperance party, being now assisted by the law, resulted in a very large reduction in the amount of drunkenness, though this was still excessive in proportion to the population.



1 Though, by seemingly an unintentional oversight, the Act of 1691 relative to labour was not then repealed, and has not since been repealed, notwithstanding that the fixing of wages by justices has been illegal in England since 1813.

2 See pp. 597-8.

3 Hildesley’s Memoirs, p. 225.

4 Those who had made fortunes in Smuggling invested in land or mortgages.

5 Comrs.’ Report, No. 83. (Letter from Lieut..Governor Shaw.)

6 Lib. Scacc.

7 The lowest agricultural wage found by Young in England in1781 was 4s. 6d. per week in Lancashire.

8 Feltham (Manx Soc., vol. vi. p. 208).

9 Quayle, p, 21, and Lib. Scacc. Quayle remarks that " the emission of paper money, . . . and the general displacing of coin from the circulation, have disturbed the present prices paid for labour so considerably, that the registering of them can be of little other use than as furnishing data for comparison."

10 Wood, p, 45.

11 Quayle, p. 21. Dry, rough walling cost 1s. yer yard, house walling is. 6d. to 2s. The fees to witnesses for each day’s attendance in court were fixed as follows in 1813 : For loss of time, tradesmen, 1s. 9d. ; tradeswomen, 1s. 2d. ; labourers (men and women), 1s. 2d. Travelling allowances : Tradesmen and tradeswomen, for each parish passed through, 7d ; labourers (men and women), ditto, 4d. (Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 304-5).

12 Bullock, p. 376.

13 Lib. Scacc.

14 Quayle, p. 49.

15 They were largely paid in the local tradesmen’s notes, which were at a considerable discount.

16 See Trade.

17 Quayle, p. 31.

18 " The multitudes of beggars all over the island have become a public nuisance " (Manks Advertiser).

19 Largely in consequence of juries refusing to convict on account of the death penalty. There were, however, several executions for this offence.

20 1824 may be approximately fixed as the date at which the Manx labourer reached his lowest depth of misery. This, according to Walpole (History of England, vol. v. p. 503), Occurred in 1842 in England.

21See p. 588.

22 Walpole (History of England, vol. i. note p. 503) gives the average daily wage of unskilled labour in England at 2s. 6d. a day in 1816, at 2s. in 1836, and again at 2s. 6d. in 1856.

23 With a cottage, and perhaps some fuel The old system of feeding the labourers, except sometimes at mid-day, was becoming less frequent.

24 See pp. 581 and 645.

25 it was in charge of a housekeeper, and a cook was also kept.

26 Now " Strand Street."

27 In 1815, £660 was spent. Eighty-five poor received a breakfast and dinner daily ; seventy received from is. to 2s. a week, and fifty from is. 6d. to 2s. a month.

28 Brown’s Directory. Comrs’. Report, App. (B), No. 84.

29 Remembering that owing to the condition of the currency these prices were partly nominal.

30 In 1810, barley was 74s. and oats 40s. to 48s. per quarter. In 1816, oats was 30s. In 1822, barley was 44s.

31 For special causes affecting price of wheat, see pp. 558—60.

32 These were the Douglas prices ; at Castletown they were somewhat lower, and at Ramsey and Peel lower still. The evidence about prices is for the most part derived from the Lib. Scacc., the Manks Mercury and Advertiser, Woods, Bullock, and sundry Guide Books.

33 Jefferys, p. 64, and Woods, p. 97.

34 Woods (p. 99) says, in 1811, that he was informed that " half a century ago, a gentleman might keep his carriage and live sumptuously for £100 per annum."

35 It could be warehoused in England and exported, free of duty, but, until price of wheat reached 80s., it could not be used for home consumption.

36 Manks Advertiser.

37 By1 and 2 Geo. IV. c. 87.

38 From 7d. to 1s. for 5½ lbs. of the best flour.

39 The Rising Sun.

40 The Rising Sun.

41This had been bought at 4s. per bushel, and was offered for ale at 9s.

42 The Rising Sun. This, however, had not been altogether realized.

43 On Nov. 29th at Douglas, and Dec. 1st at Ramsey.

44 Pamphlet (1825), p. 122.

45 Beef and mutton from 4d. to 8d. per lb. ; pork from 2d. to 8d. per lb. Fowls from 1s. to 3s. per pair. Butter from 7d. to is. per lb. (These prices are approximate.)

46 See p. 622.

47 Till after 1866 they ate but little meat. Their food, in 1811, consisted chiefly of butter-milk, potatoes, barley-cakes, stir-about, and herrings (Woods, pp. 45-6).

48 Considering the change in the value of money. In 1840, sheep cost from 7s. to 8s., milking cows from £5 to £7, and potatoes from 4s. to 5s. per boll of 32 stones.

49 Robertson, p. i96.

50 Feltham, p. 120. An English officer who stayed for two years in the island at this period wrote : At present they are no " better sheltered from the inclemencies of the weather than the beasts of the fields " (Townley, vol. i. p. 45).

51 Woods, pp. 37-8. See also Quayle, pp. 22-3.

52 Bullock, p. 250. See also Robertson, p. 156, and Quayle, p. 150.

53 Though it is significant that Woods said (pp. 107-8), when he visited the island in 1810, that he could not obtain any blotting-paper in Douglas, and that the only person who sold books was a bookbinder by trade. There was, however, a circulating library.

54 See p. 411.

55 Statutes, vol. i. p. 301. But this does not seem to have been done. See next page.

56 Robertson, p. 15.

57 Woods, p. 104.

58 Bullock, p. 206. Down to 1808, the streets had no names, and the houses were unnumbered till 1843 (Train, vol. ii. p. 366).

59 Now Strand Street. It and Duke Street were then the extreme limits of the town on the northern and western sides.

60 Manks Advertiser, 1816.

61 It may be mentioned that in 1804 the ducal palace of Castle Mona, built of dressed white freestone from the Isle of Arran, was completed at a cost, it is said, of more than £40,000.

62 H. S. Brown, Memoirs, p. 4.

63 Teignmouth, vol. ii p. 184.

64 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 70-83. There were only a few private houses in Douglas lit by gas as late as 1843. By January,1860, there were twenty-two public gas lamps in Douglas. For supply of water in 1834, see p. 570.

65 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 97-103. In 1838, a covered market was built in Wellington Street, but, since the country people would not use it on account of the charge made for stalls, it was soon abandoned

66 Mona’s Herald.

67 Manx Sun.

68 Douglas nine, and the other towns six each.

69 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 297-306.

70 Statutes, vol. iii. pp 1-13.

71 The gross valuation of Douglas at this time was £41,512, and the net valuation £33,318. Inhabited houses, 1,727 ; uninhabited, 40.

72 Statutes, vol iii. pp. 114-124. We may mention that, in 1860, the residence of the governor was transferred from Castle-town to Douglas, and, after 1864, the practices of holding the Common Law Courts alternately in Castletown and Douglas, and of occasionally summoning the Legislature to sit in Douglas, grew up.

73 Feltham, p. 143.

74 Bullock, p. 233.

75 Teignmouth, p. 186.

76 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 468-71. Douglas had a similar Act in 1834, see p. 570.

77 Ibid., vol. ii. pp. 434-7, and vol. iii. pp. 196-206.

78 Ibid., vol. iii. pp.196-206.

79 Bullock, p. 2i9.

80 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 413-16, and 420-21.

81 Manx Ballads, p. 23. A court-house and jail were ordered to be erected at the market cross, in 1830.

82 Statutes, vol. iii. pp. 90-3, and vol ii. pp. 417-18.

83 I.e., in 1790, a chief constable and gaoler and seven constables in Castletown, five in Douglas, and one each in the other towns. After 1814, the numbers in Douglas and Castletown were reduced to four.

84 £5 annually. The chief got £12 l0s. In 1830, it was raised to £10 for the constables and £25 for the chief.

85 They devoted their time to the serving of civil processes,instead of being always in readiness to assist the magistrates in preserving the peace of the town 2(Manx Advertiser 1833)

86 Manks Advertiser, 1833.

87 Manx Sun.

88 There was also a gaoler in Castletown.

89 Ibid.

90 Captain M. Goldie.

91 Scientific sanitation was practically unknown till the end of this period.

92 Manks Advertiser.

93 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 47-50. It was bound to lay on water to a house on receiving twenty days’ notice and being tendered the rate, which was not to exceed 8 per cent. on the annual value. In 1859, additional powers were given to the Douglas Water Works Company to take more water and increase its capital (vol. ii. pp. 449—51).

94 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 288-92.

95 Ibid., vol. iii. pp. 114-24.

96 At a cost of £3,931.

97 Statutes, vol. iii. pp. 188-95.

98 Manks Advertiser.

99 There are no authoritative vital statistics, and we can only judge of what occurred by comparing the information given by MS. letters, and the church registers with the changes in population. The worst epidemics of small-pox were in 1765, 1772, 1780, and 1799. In the parish of German and the town of Peel 480 per 1,000 died of it in the former year, and 250 per 1,000 in the latter. It also raged in 1839, 1851, and between 1864 and 1866. In the parish of Ballaugh the deaths from small-pox and other causes respectively were :—



Other Causes.

In 1764-5. December 13-March 31



1772-3. July 16—August 24



1799. February 8-June 24



The worst epidemic of cholera was in 1832, when 90 out of 2,000 died in Castletown. It returned in 1849 and 1853. Typhus killed a great number in 1837. The terrible destruction caused by small-pox seems to have been largely due to the baneful practice of inoculation which was put a stop to by Act of Tynwald in 1852 (Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 314-15), but unfortunately, vaccination was not made compulsory till 1876. (In England inoculation began to be practised in 1721, but did not come into general use till 1740. It was rendered a penal offence by the Act of 1840. Vaccination was first introduced into the island about 1805.

100 The numbers of births and deaths are given in the registrars’ returns since 1851, this being the first year in which they were issued in accordance with the Acts of 1849 (Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 223-53), but they are of little value, as registration was not made compulsory till 1877. In the three years in which typhoid fever and small-pox were prevalent the death rates were said to have been as follow













But it seems very unlikely that the death rate of the towns would be smaller than that of the island generally. In the different towns the rates were as follow :—





















The general Manx birth rate for 1851-60 was 28·0, and for 1861-70, 29·8, the general death rate for the same periods being 19·3 and 20·6 respectively.

101. It was 19,144 in 1757.

102 The town population of Man both in 1792 and 1861 bore a larger proportion to the country population than that of England and Wales in 1801 and 1861, and it increased more in proportion to the country, as the following figures will show. It must be remembered, however, that, in the case of Eng-land and Wales, only the 72 largest towns are given, which will somewhat modify the results :—




England and Wales











1792 +


Isle of Man



31 846







+ Nearest census to 1801, the next being in 1821,

102 For full details as to population see Appendix B.

103 See p. 413, and Robertson, pp. 15 and 21-2. Woods (p. 27), referring to the debtors, remarks : " The island is so much the resort of persons of this character, that a man, on his arrival, is, ipso facto, immediately suspected of coming hither to avoid his creditors These persons could only be held to bail for their personal appearance and for the production of the goods they had on the island ; they could not be deprived of their money and clothes. Jefferys’ (Guide Book, 1809, pp. 63-5) gives some amusing evidence as to the mutual aversion of the Manx and English..

104 Enormous numbers of officers were thrown out of employment after the peace in 1815, and, since their half-pay was low, a place where they could live very cheaply was a necesity.

105 Manks Advertiser.

105a See p. 588.

106 Improved accommodation for the well-to-do visitor was obtained, in 1834, by the conversion of the ducal palace of Castle Mona into an hotel. It was calculated that the visitors at this period expended about £50,000 annually, and the half-pay officers, who, with their families, numbered about 500, £100,000 annually.

107 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 257-61.

108 Rushen Abbey was bought for a lunatic asylum by the insular Government in 1853, but it was not utilized for that purpose, and an Act was passed to revoke the deed of sale (Statutes, vol. iii. pp. 97-8).

109 Satutes, vol. iii. pp. 43-73. The cost was divided as suggested by the Home Secretary in 1851.

110 The total cost of the building, not including later additions, was £21,781, of which the English Government paid £10,908. The total expenditure on these additions, to June, 1882, was£29,888.

111 In 1830, rum was 2d., gin 3d., brandy 6d. per glass, the prices in England being 6d., 8d., and 1s. respectively. This resulted front the great difference in the duties.

112 The average consumption of spirits in the Isle of Man, in 1765, was four gallons a head, but this is only on the basis of the legal importation which was a small part of the whole, while, in 1862, it was 1·6 gallons. In 1805, 25,000 lbs. of tea, or about 1 lb. per head, was considered sufficient for insular consumption, whereas about 300,000 lbs., or nearly 6 lb. a head, was actually used in 1866. The number of visitors in 1862 and 1866, and their practical absence in 1765 and 1805, should be borne in mind when estimating the significance of these figures. In London, in 1750, the average consumption of spirits was said to be about 14 gallons, whereas between 1865 and 1895 it was 1·48 gallons for both wine and spirits.

113 See pp. 405-6. It was made 24s. 6d. for wine, 12s. 3d. for spirits, 12s. 3d. for ale (Statutes, vol. i. pp. 365-9). In 1819, wine licences were raised to 36s. 9d., spirits to 24s. 6d., ale remaining as before (Ibid., pp. 404-13).

114 See p. 581.

115 Though it is possible that the governor may have inserted conditions in their licences by which they were bound (see Statutes, vol. i. p. 207).

116 Besides 45 grocers’ licences, there were 14 public houses in Patrick, 16 in German, 9 in Marown, 36 in Peel, 15 in Michael, 13 in Ballaugh, 3 in Jurby, 18 in Andreas, 7 in Bride, 14 in Lezayre, 46 in Ramsey, 5 in Maughold, 14 in Lonan, 9 in Conchan, 103 in Douglas,19 in Braddan, 8 in Santon, 24 in Malew, 28 in Castletown, 11 in Arbory, and 31 in Rushen.

117 Memoirs of H. S Brown, p. 2. He also says that Hollantide Fair (then held in Athol Street) "was a scene of drunkeness so great that you could scarcely see a sober man on the ground " (p. 4).

118 Statutes, vol. i. p. 367.

119 Ibid., p. 406.

120 Ibid., vol. ii. pp. 14-22. The licence on spirits, &c., was £2, and on beer £1. The penalty for selling contrary to the terms of the licence was, for the first offence, £10, and, for the second, £20. This Act repealed those of 1734, 1776, and 1819.

The licences were granted by the governor.

121 Also on Good Friday and any Public Fast Day, and between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., except on Saturdays, when the hours for closing were from 10 p.m. to 6 am.

122 For both spirits and beer—country, £4 ; town, £5 l0s.

123 Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 422-9.

124 Including " ale-houses " where beer only was sold. This distinction disappeared after 1857 (Statutes, vol. iii. pp. 253-7). By an Act passed in 1865 greater discretionary powers were given to the deemsters and justices, so that minor offences against the licensing laws should not be punished as heavily as major offences, and occasional licences were allowed to be granted (Statates, vol. iii. pp. 253—7).


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